A count of rough sleepers in Luton has found a drop of almost half as many sleeping on the streets compared to a year ago,
In November, Luton Council conducted the statutory street count that forms the basis of annual government statistics on rough sleeping in England.
The council and its partners estimated 69 people were sleeping rough that night, however there was sufficient evidence to verify 47 and 18 were actually counted, or seen rough sleeping.
This represents a 46 per cent decrease from the 87 verified during the annual rough sleeping estimate in November 2017 - the highest number ever recorded in the town.
A council spokesman said: “These estimates are a snapshot assessment, based on our own evidence and a range of partner agencies, about the number of people sleeping rough in our authority area on a particular night.
“It will not record everyone in the area with a history of rough sleeping and it is not intended to be a complete picture of current rough sleepers in Luton. However, it can be an effective means of gauging the scale of the problem and monitoring progress over time.”
Street counts or estimates follow a methodology developed by Homeless Link and approved by the Ministry of Housing Community and Local Government Annual estimates, ARE carried out each November.
The November count confirmed the majority of people sleeping rough in Luton are doing so in and around the town centre, and that most individuals to have multiple support needs including mental and physical health, alcohol and/or drug dependency and family breakdown. A further 61 per cent had no recourse to public funds.
Cllr Tom Shaw, portfolio holder for Housing, said: “This count does not give us a full picture of the number of people sleeping rough here in Luton, nor does it give us detailed information about the many and complex reasons people end up sleeping on the street.
“But street counts do give us valuable information about the overall trend and changing needs of those sleeping rough here. We were pleased to see the overall count number decrease from last November’s record high, but we know there are more rough sleepers here in Luton than we were able to account for in one night.
“The rough sleeping teams, based at NOAH and Signposts, were able to help 48 individuals out of rough sleeping and into accommodation between September and December 18. Without these services the estimates and counts would be much higher.
“In addition to the existing provision we have in place with our partners at NOAH and Signposts and the outreach teams working across the town, we have also been able to open new winter assessment and respite accommodation for 30 people in the town centre. This is thanks to temporary funding from the government’s Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI). This complements the provision of beds already available for rough sleepers at the SOS hostel run by Signposts in Arthur Street.
“We would also like to remind anyone who is concerned about someone sleeping rough that our severe weather winter night shelter opens via NOAH at 141 Park Street when the temperature is zero or below and is free to anyone who needs access.
“Our website www.luton.gov.uk/homelesshelp also offers advice on other ways you can help – from donating to our Alternative Giving scheme, to the day centres open and offering help right now.”
“We are also asking for your help to help us offer the right help to anyone who needs it. If you see someone, or are aware of someone who says they are going to sleep rough, please call 0300 500 0914 or visit www.streetlink.org.uk . This national charity will get in touch with the local Outreach Team on your behalf. Outreach staff will respond the same or next day.”
More information about how the council conducts street counts is available at www.luton.gov.uk/homelessness